Last week, I wrote about how we spend a good part of our lives in sorrow because of suffering that is, in most cases, unavoidable. I provided a short but specific definition of the word “suffer,” which is, “to undergo or feel pain or distress.” I then provided the definition of “sorrow,” which is “a feeling of deep distress caused by loss, disappointment, or other misfortune suffered by oneself or others.”
Some of the examples of suffering I provided included hardship, distress, misery, wretchedness, worry, adversity, tribulation, agony, anguish, trauma, torment, affliction, sadness, unhappiness, regret, grief, gloominess, mournfulness, dread, anxiety, insecurity, heartache, heartbreak, and stress.
To understand the full extent of the suffering that we often face, we must also consider the fact that we bring suffering upon ourselves by succumbing to unnecessary fear. Most of our fears live within us at a subconscious level. Depending on our situation, we may fear that we will be humiliated, criticized, ridiculed, wronged, suspected, despised, chastised, rejected, slandered, rebuked, forgotten, or laughed at.
What happens when we are motivated by one or more of those fears? We lie. We cheat. We gossip. We procrastinate. We withdraw. We make excuses. We fail to defend our faith. We become angry and hostile. We escape by drinking, gambling, going into seclusion, or engaging in illicit activities.
Is there anything we can do to ease our suffering?
The answer is yes, but before I go any further, I want to first point out that there is no human on Earth who can rightfully claim that they have suffered more than the Mother of God suffered while she was living. Yet she was every bit as human as you and I are.
Do you think the Blessed Mother understands your suffering and sorrow? Do you think she could use her experience and influence to help you get through your challenges and struggles? While pondering whether she is qualified to assist you with your suffering and sorrow, consider the seven sorrows that she was forced to endure and struggle through:
1. The prophecy of Simeon. At the presentation of the baby Jesus in the temple, the prophet Simeon said to the Mother of Jesus, “A sword will pierce your heart, so that the thoughts of many will be revealed.” Luke 2:35.
2. The flight into Egypt. “Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.’ So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.” Matthew 2:13-14.
3. The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple. “And when he was 12 years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple …. And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.’” Luke 2:42-48.)
4. Mary’s meeting with Jesus on the way to Calvary. Mary sought and caught up with her Son after Pilate had condemned Him to die on the cross. The sight of her Son’s wounds, bruises, and blood-drenched face and body had to be one of the most heart-wrenching experiences any mother could ever be expected to endure.
5. The death of Jesus on the cross. “Meanwhile, standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.” John 19:25.
6. The piercing of the side of Jesus, and Mary’s receiving the body of Jesus in her arms. “But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” John 19:33-34.
7. The burial of the body of Jesus in the tomb. “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it [in] clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed.” Matthew 27:58-60.
As devout Catholics, we know that our journey through life needs to be a journey to perfection. In the eyes of God, the journey to perfection is to seek to be as free as possible from all sin, all faults, all worries, and all unnecessary fears. The best way to fulfill this journey is to always have by your side the Mother of God to assist you with your suffering and sorrow. It is through her assistance that you will be able to vanquish all your worries and unnecessary fears.
There is a simple but powerful Marian devotion that is available to help us do this. The devotion is called “The Seven Sorrows of Mary.” This devotion focuses on the seven sorrowful events in Mary’s life that I just covered. The proper way to practice this daily devotion is to recite one Our Father and seven Hail Mary’s — one Hail Mary for each of the seven sorrows — while meditating on each of the seven sorrows.
For the devout Catholic, the journey toward perfection is, in many respects, about managing a never-ending inflow of suffering and sorrow. It’s about converting our sorrow into a means of helping others by offering our suffering to God as a sacrifice for the benefit of others. Of course, there is some suffering and sorrow that must be lovingly accepted as a gift from God, just as our Lord accepted His suffering as a gift from His Father.
The key to dealing with suffering and sorrow is to never quit or give up, and to always show complete trust and faith in God. There is a great benefit to this approach to suffering and sorrow. The more you refuse to quit, the more resilient you become and the more ready you are for the next challenge.
A strong sense of resiliency is one of the most important of all personal characteristics. It determines how well you can take a hit and how quickly you can recover. It determines how well you can weather the storms of conflict, criticism, and humiliation, and how adept you will become at courageously and creatively responding to whatever is attempting to take you down.
Are you ready for the next round of suffering and sorrow?
For me, I say, Bring it on! It’ll only help to speed up and guarantee my journey toward perfection.
What do you say?